Movie Trivia: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Did you guys hear that Indiana Jones 5 is apparently in the works? Are you all as horrified as I am? If you're like me and hated Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with a passion, then you prefer to dwell on the classics - Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Last Crusade, and yes, even Temple of Doom. Here's some trivia to remind you of the good times.

Picture from FanPop.

The movie was filmed during the summer of 1980. You’ve probably heard the rumors, and yes, they’re true – Indiana Jones was named after George Lucas’ dog, Indiana. He was the prototype for Chewbacca as well, so his old malamute had a pretty big impact on Lucas’ two biggest series.  

“Indiana Smith?” Yep, almost, until Steven Spielberg told Lucas it just didn't sound right. The equally-generic "Jones" was suggested and flowed much better.

According to George Lucas, almost every studio in town turned down the movie, feeling that it would cost too much money to make. Tim Matheson and Tom Selleck both tested for Indiana Jones; Karen Allen actually screentested with Tim Matheson. Tom Selleck did very well and was the frontrunner, but had to bow out due to Magnum P.I. Harrison Ford was brought up early in the casting discussion, but George Lucas wanted to avoid casting him since he had already become so closely associated with Star Wars.

The role of Sallah was offered to Danny DeVito - he was Spielberg's first choice - but was unable to do it because of Taxi. The job went to John Rhys-Davies instead.

Indy’s leather jacket looks old and beat up, but in reality, it was brand new - and there were 10 of them. The costume director "aged" each jacket with a metal brush and Harrison Ford's own pocket knife.

The famous hat is from Savile Row in London, a place called Herbert Johnson. The hat had a very wide brim and the crown was quite high, apparently the fashion Down Under since it was their Australian model. After a couple of fittings, it was declared the Indiana Jones fedora. When the customized hat arrived at the studio, the costume designer rolled it up and crushed it, then various members of the cast (including Harrison) took turns sitting on it to make it look like a very worn-in, well-loved hat.

Someone was actually sent out to find a mountain that specifically looked like the Paramount Studios logo mountain so they could create the opening shot of the movie. I suppose these days Lucas would have just made a CGI mountain...

There was a complication during the scene where Alfred Molina is covered in spiders – they didn’t want to move. They just sat stagnant on him, making the excitement of the scene rather… well, not exciting. They discovered that all of the spiders were male, so a female spider was put on Molina’s chest. It did the trick – the male spiders were immediately more active and started to crawl in the direction of the female.

The golden idol was based on an Incan fertility statue.

The movie was filmed in Tunisia because it was a lot cheaper to shoot there than Egypt, and since the script never called for shots of the Sphinx or the pyramids, so they were able to get away with it. In fact, one of the scenes was shot in the exact same canyon where R2-D2 was stolen by Jawas in Star Wars.

The part where Indy watches a swordsman go through a very elaborate routine with his scimitar only to shoot him at the end of it happened because Harrison Ford really had to go to the bathroom. Indy was supposed to have a huge fight scene using his whip, but a bout of dysentery had left him weak and desperately needing the john. Because of this, someone - reports vary on whose idea it was - suggested that Indy just dispatch the dude like anyone who had a gun in his arsenal would.

Harrison wasn’t the only one who got sick – a majority of the cast and crew found themselves incapacitated at some point during filming in Tunisia. Steven Spielberg didn't get sick because he ate only canned food from the U.K. Everyone else who ate food in the restaurants or at the hotel got horribly sick at least once during filming.

The giant boulder was Spielberg's idea and was supposedly based on an old Scrooge McDuck cartoon called "The Seven Cities of Cibola,” where the exact same thing happens: when an idol is lifted off of its pedestal, a giant rock descends and almost kills the thief. The rock in Raiders was only made of fiberglass, but it was still very heavy and great precautions had to be taken to ensure that it could be stopped in case Harrison Ford or a stunt double tripped while the scene was being shot.

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During the scene where Indy fights while the plane is rolling around, Harrison Ford actually sustained an injury when the wheels of the plane got too close and rolled right up onto his leg. It tore his ACL, but rather than submit to Tunisian hospitals, Ford wrapped it in ice and continued to shoot. He also bruised his ribs during the scene where he is dragged behind the truck.

Unlike his character counterpart, Harrison Ford isn’t afraid of snakes and had no problem working with them during the Well of Souls scene. Precautions were taken anyway - if you look closely, a reflection gives away the fact that a sheet of glass was placed between Ford and the cobra. It was a good thing, too – at one point the cobra actually sprayed venom onto the glass.

Some of the sound effects weren’t fancy at all: the sound of snakes slithering was really just the sound designer squishing his fingers through a cheese casserole, the sound of people getting punched was really a pile of leather coats being hit with a baseball bat, and the lid sliding off of the Ark was a toilet lid being slid off the back of a toilet. The sound designer was having trouble coming up with just the right sound for the rolling boulder at the beginning of the movie and ended up using the sound of a Honda Civic coasting down a gravel hill.

Marion was the writer's grandmother-in-law's name, and he had been mulling over a surname for a while when he came across a streetname called "Ravenwood" and loved the way the two names fit together.

The boat was actually the submarine model from Das Boot. Although most shots were done in four takes or less because Lucas and Spielberg wanted a “quick and dirty” feel to the movie – nothing too perfect – there was one shot that took more than 50 takes. It was the scene where the monkey salutes with a “Heil Hitler” gesture. A grape was attached to fishing line and held just out of reach of the camera shot to achieve the salute, but it took a while to get it just right. It ended up being one of Steven Spielberg’s favorite moments in the movie.

The movie originally received an “R” rating because of the gruesome deaths that happen when the Ark is opened, specifically when Belloq’s head explodes. To lessen the effect, flames were superimposed over his exploding head. This earned the film a “PG” rating instead.

Photo from

Those of us who like little movie secrets know that George Lucas likes to include a reference to “1138” in all of his movies in homage to his first movie, THX 1138. You’ll find it in Raiders during the Nazi harbor scene if you listen to the numbers being read over the loudspeaker. It’s subtle, though, because the numbers are read in German – “Ein, ein, drei, acht.”

Another Star Wars nod: there’s a little hieroglyph of R2D2 visible if you don’t blink, but this is the only screenshot I can find of it. Photoshop job? What do you think?

Photo from BlameItOnTheVoices.

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I think raiders was just about a perfect movie. At no point did the movie drag and also unlike last crusade and the herendous crystal skull we .knew next to nothing about indianas' family life and he seemed to have more balls in raiders wich i think can also be said about lucas and speilberg. Back then everything they did was cool nothing they did was goofy or childish like the later star wars films.
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The version of the gun and the swordsman I read was that the script called for Indiana to pull the sword out of his hand with the whip but after several takes he still missed. So finally Ford got disgusted and pulled out his gun and shot him instead. They stopped filming, looked at each other, and exclaimed, "That's exactly what Indiana Jones would do!" and put it in the film.
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The version I frequently hear is that Ford was supposed to fight the swordsman, but he had injured himself in an earlier scene. Unable to do the action sequence, he decided to shoot him instead.

Also, another version recounts that the boulder scene was actually very dangerous and few precautions were taken. Ford was not impressed with Spielberg, as he was led to believe the boulder weighed very little.
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This may only known by a few people. The golden idol prop is in the vault at the Academy of Motion Pictures where Oscars that belong to the Academy or are on loan for exhibitions are stored. All that is in there are Oscars and the idol. The story I heard was that the Academy asked Spielberg for an Oscar for an exhibit and he sent the idol. I saw it, and it was pretty hysterical to see shelves full of Oscars, and there in the corner is the little golden idol.
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